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Leathan Milne

Blame It On the Rain

Leathan Milne Lets Vancouver's Gloom Fuel His Fire

By Scott Wood

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This year, I am doing a yearlong series for !earshot online on Vancouver bands. Basically I am going to give the campus community radio readers the chance to get to know some of Vancouver’s most interesting talents.

This month, I chat with local musician Leathan Milne. Leathan emailed me some of his tracks, asking to come on to the show. I gave them a listen and his songs were the perfect soundtrack for that rainy Sunday morning as I watched water dripping off the trees. Turns out, Leathan’s record The Outcome Of Weather was largely inspired by Vancouver’s unique rainforest climate.

Here is my chat with this rising Vancouver musician.

Scott Wood: The record is called The Outcome Of Weather. A very intriguing if vague title. What does it mean to your music?

Leathan Milne: The title describes the effect that weather has on my life and music. Living in Vancouver can get pretty gloomy in the winter months and that mood definitely carried over to most of the songs that made the album. I've always had an affinity for sad songs and living in this city can definitely fuel that fire.

On the West Coast: "Living in Vancouver can get pretty gloomy in the winter months and that mood definitely carried over to most of the songs that made the album. I've always had an affinity for sad songs and living in this city can definitely fuel that fire.

Scott Wood: This album took a year to make. Can you talk about some sacrifices you've made to get it done?

Leathan Milne: It took a long time to finish, but, when I think back over the process I feel like it was actually a pretty smooth one. I wasn't really in any rush to get it done. I just wanted to make sure it was the way that I wanted it to sound. Surprisingly, I feel like I didn't really make any sacrifices at all. I guess when it's something you love the sacrifices don't really matter once you've reached your goal. That's how it feels to me right now anyways.

Scott Wood: This is a great attitude! Each week when I am editing the interview show, my friends are all playing the latest Assassin's Creed or making out with someone cute. So sometimes devoting your time to one thing means you have to let go of some other things!

Leathan Milne: I hear you. Sometimes you miss out on some cool things to accomplish what you want. I'm a pretty driven person. If I get an idea in my head, I have to do it. I'm pretty tough to talk out of what I've decided to do too. Some people call that being stubborn, I call it being awesome. I get bored really easily so I try and keep as busy as possible.

Scott Wood: You did everything on this record yourself. Can you make a list of the hats you've worn and talk about a time where in over your head making the record?

Leathan Milne: I definitely wore some hats that I don't usually on this record. I played all the instruments myself (drums, keys, guitars, banjo, lap steel, mandolin, upright bass, accordion and vocals), but I had a little help from a few friends. Chris Rzepa played cello on the album and really brought the songs to life. I wouldn't have even come close to achieving the sounds she got.

Leathan Milne

I also produced, engineered and mixed the album myself. I originally was going to master it myself too, but when I reached that stage, I was pretty burnt out. I'm very glad I outsourced that one. It's always nice to have another set of ears critique what you're doing.

Scott Wood: You moved from Alberta to Vancouver. What makes Vancouver the perfect place to make your music?

Leathan Milne: I actually moved from a small town outside of Calgary, called Turner Valley. I had no real reasons to move to Vancouver. I literally just packed up with a friend of mine and moved out here. I wanted a big music hub, but I also wanted oceans and mountains and all that good stuff. Nobody combines the two quite like Vancouver. I've been here about 8 years which is weird to say. I've met and worked with some amazing people out here. I think it would be pretty hard to leave this place.

Scott Wood: You are embarking on a tour of BC in the beginning of 2012. Sounds like a great adventure! Local indie folk singer Dan Mangan says it is a rite of passage for Canadian touring bands to risk death while driving around the vast expanse that is Canada. Can you tell me a Leathan Milne death-defying tale?

On Death-Defying Tours: "On this last tour, we were the last car through the gate of the Coquihalla before they closed the highway for blizzards. They literally lowered the barricades as we went through. That highway can steal a man's soul.

Leathan Milne: Just finished up a two week tour in January and am heading out again for a good part of May and June across this great land. On this last tour, we were the last car through the gate of the Coquihalla before they closed the highway for blizzards. They literally lowered the barricades as we went through. That was a pretty death defying drive. That highway can steal a man’s soul. I think most of my death-defying tour moments have been on that road.

Scott Wood: You'd think that being from Alberta, you would laugh off snowy roads!

Leathan Milne: Ya, ya, you would. I love the snow. I love driving in the snow. That's how bad that highway is. Even for a guy who should like the drive, I fear for my life while on it. You never know what's gonna happen. Avalanche, breakdown, wind storm, spontaneous combustion—It's all possible.

Scott Wood: Best memory from touring BC?

Leathan Milne: There have been so many good ones. So many wonderful and hospitable people. It's amazing how well you get treated on the road sometimes. I'd have to say my favourite memories all revolve around touring through Kaslo (a small BC town close to Nelson). I first played there about 5 years ago and pretty much fell in love with the people and the town. Every time I go back it feels like home. You can talk to anyone like you've known them for years.

Scott Wood: You used to teach music to kids. Can you talk about a moment from those times that reinvigorated or reinforced your passion for song?

Leathen Milne
Ali says having her band behind her relaxes her.

Leathan Milne: So many times! I love teaching guitar, although I don't do it too often anymore. I still stay in touch with most of my old students and still send them little things to try and trip them up. It's so cool seeing someone become really passionate about the guitar. The whole process is really cool. There have been a number of times where students of mine have come in with an idea or question and it's made me stop and say "Damn, I need to step my game up. This guy's really good!" Then I'll just sit in my room by myself for a week and woodshed. It really inspires me to practice and get better.

Scott Wood: Neat! Can you talk about something you have sent an old student "to try and
 trip them up"?

Leathan Milne: I have one student in particular who I always send things to. I ran in to him last year, when I was back in Alberta, and he told me to stop sending him things he couldn't do! Ha! I loved it. I usually send lots of rhythm work. I also send lots of Phish songs for people to learn. Think what you will about Phish, but learning to play some of their songs is no easy feat.

Scott Wood: You make sweet-sounding sensitive-guy folk-ish music that wouldn't be out of place on a TV show or movie where the romantic couple is apart, but figuring out that they should really be together. What fantasy couple would you like your music to help get back together?

Leathan Milne: Haha! Wow. I can honestly say this is the first time I have ever been asked this. I also do not see a foreseeable time where I will ever be asked this again. I have honestly no idea. You have stumped me. I guess if anything I would like to see Leslie Nielsen (legendary Canadian actor from the Naked Gun films) come back to life. So I suppose my answer is Leslie Nielsen and life.

Greatest. Actor. Ever. Have you seen the Naked Gun Trilogy? Brilliant. I'm pretty sure it won some Oscars...

On Challenging the Next Generation: "I still stay in touch with most of my old students and send them little things to try and trip them up. I send lots of Phish songs for people to learn. Think what you will about Phish, but learning to play some of their songs is no easy feat.

Scott Wood: You are also in a couple of other bands that don't sound at all like The Outcome Of Weather. Can you talk about them and what different types of music mean to you?

Leathan Milne: I play in several other bands right now but the two main ones I'm a part of are called Miami Device and Zoomafloome.

Miami Device is an 11-piece afrobeat/funk band. I absolutely love playing with these guys. Funk music (specifically afrobeat) is a huge influence on me. It's one of my favourite musical genres. I love the idea of sitting on a really funky groove for like 20-minutes and just making everybody dance. You got a lot of power up there with 11 guys.

Zoomafloome is a kind of experimental funk/jam band. We improvise all our music so there's lots of focus on listening and staying on your toes. Improvised music fascinates me. You really have to be careful what you do because it's easy to make it sound like total garbage. The guys in the band and I have been playing music together for many years so there's a real good connection. It's a great outlet to get some of that pent up music nerdery out. Our whole idea is to try and screw each other up using any way we can, changing time signatures, keys, whatever. We don't stump each other very much anymore, but when it happens, you'll see us all laugh a little up on stage.

I love all types of music. I'm a huge bluegrass fan and probably even a bigger metal fan. There's so much you can take from different musical styles. Moods, lyrical ideas, production techniques. I almost always have music playing. It's one of the few things I can just sit and nerd out on all the time.

On Genre: I love all types of music. I'm a huge bluegrass fan and probably even a bigger metal fan. There's so much you can take from different musical styles. Moods, lyrical ideas, production techniques. I almost always have music playing. It's one of the few things I can just sit and nerd out on all the time.

Scott Wood: Nice! Can you tell me something metal about your current sensitive singer-songwriter record The Outcome Of Weather?

Leathan Milne: I love how quick you are to point out how sensitive I am. It's quite amusing to me. There's not too much metal influence on the record. But the music is so mellow that I would always crush some metal after recording sessions to throw my brain a curve ball. Mostly Pantera. They are the Leslie Nielsens of the metal kingdom.

Scott Wood: Just goes to show… If you are “sensitive” that doesn’t mean you can’t crush to Pantera!

You can find out more about Leathan Milne at his website. http://www.leathanmilne.com/

Listen to upcoming episodes of the interview show for a full audio interview with Leathan Milne!  

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